Is this picture of Hatchetfish real?

This picture of Hatchetfish front-on looks plausible, but do fish really have nostrils like that? It’s difficult to tell comparing it to this known-good picture. This line art is also a little bit too small to tell.

On the other hand, it might also be an Oreo Dorey, as seen on this page (near the bottom (heh)). That looks like it has nostrils.

I am not sure what you find questionable about that first photo. Fish nostrils are pretty much pits.

All you really need to know about fish nostrils.

Gah. That first link gave me the willies; I think I’ll print it out and hang it on the door on Halloween to scare the kiddies.

I actually had a few hatchet fish years ago when I had an aquarium. They like to hang up by the surface, and will jump out of the water if given the chance.

Those would be freshwater hatchetfish. The hatchetfish in the OP is a completely different species, a deep-sea marine fish.

Nightmare fuel by any other name would scare as savagely.

OK, so it’s a legitimate picture, then? Cool.

They’re real hatchetfish, but I should mention that the picture was likely taken when they were already dead. Both mouths open to that degree, the texture of the eyes (especially evident in the specimen at the right,) and the skin hugging the bone so tight above the mouth and above the eyes, as well as the positions of the pectoral fins make me think these are dead fish in a staged picture to make it look like they’re looking at the camera.

This is often done because it’s hard to get pictures of live hatchetfish - photography in the deep sea is extremely dependent on luck and on who decides to get close enough, and very few live specimens are ever brought to the surface. I remember when I was in college my Intro Biology textbook had a horrible staged picture of two deep-sea fish and a shrimp in an obvious condition of decomposition. I was angry at first at the ruse, but I have since buried the hatchet.

I should note in the interests of full disclosure that I have never seen a live hatchetfish, but I have seen a few dead ones.